[Editor’s Note: From packaging to store design, our industry is evolving. These are just some of the ways the cannabis industry has grown.]
The legal cannabis industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, and it continues to improve each day. And with legality comes maturity—today’s world of weed is a far cry from that of yesteryear: there have been exponential improvements to the way we view cannabis, purchase cannabis, and live a cannabis lifestyle.
Legalization has brought maturity, innovation, professionalism, and credibility to cannabis. Below, delve into five ways the industry has grown up.
Packaging That Appeals to Adults
Part of being taken seriously as a brand means paying attention to packaging, logos, and product design. With the cannabis industry belonging to adults 21 and over, it makes sense that brands within the industry would want to appeal to those looking for reputable products. At the end of the day, a package with a unique logo and sleek design says “credible” more than one that has a lackluster or juvenile look.
Companies have always strived to have their logos and brands be household names, and the cannabis industry is no different. Legal states can find professional products carving out their space in dispensaries with recognizable and well-designed looks aimed to make consumers feel confident in choosing their product.
Dispensaries Care About Interior Design
Stepping into a dispensary should feel like stepping into a professional establishment, not a shabby parlor or dealer’s den. Business owners want to be taken seriously, so they are putting in the effort by hiring interior designers and local artists to create beautiful and welcoming spaces for their clients. The result is well-established dispensaries, beautiful enough to catch the eye, and functional enough to cater to high-volumes of new and repeat customers.
Cannabinoids Have More Validity Than Indica/Sativa
Back in the day, one of the few ways to judge a strain was to ask, “indica or sativa?” We’ve come a long way since then. While indica/sativa labels can be a mildly helpful way to determine how a strain will affect you, it is ultimately a flawed classification that doesn’t compare to exact cannabinoid percentages and ratios.
It’s one thing to know that Blue Dream is a hybrid, it’s another to know your strain of Blue Dream has 24% THC, 0.2% CBD, and 0.01% THCV. Today, as the science has deepened, people can find these specifics in dispensaries across the nation. Approaching cannabis—medical or recreational—with scientific knowledge and understanding, vastly improves consumer’s experience and lends validity to the industry, which we can all benefit from.
Sexy Nurses Are Out, Legitimate Cannabis Doctors Are In
Scantily clad “nurses” in weed-themed apparel were not an uncommon sight in magazines and events just a few years ago and phasing out this old icon is certainly a sign of the industry taking itself more seriously. Instead of fake nurses, the cannabis industry has medical marijuana MDs at the forefront in interviews, events, and in doctor offices near you.
In addition, promoters advertising events, or editors picking their cover photos, are more often choosing to forego cheap gimmicks and instead put the spotlight on everyone’s favorite flower and all her lovely trichomes—which is exactly where the attention should be.
It’s Time to Shine for Organic and Healthy Edibles
The world of edibles has come a long way from cookies, brownies, and gummies. Sure, these products still exist and are available at any time to soothe a sweet tooth, but with maturity comes knowing when to opt for candy and when to choose something healthy. After all, for many, edibles are medication.
Many brands are now choosing healthier ingredients, and it’s even possible to find options for those who prefer organic, gluten-free, or vegan eats. There will always be room in our hearts for the classic pot brownie, but having healthier options goes to show how the industry is growing to cater to a wide range of people and dietary needs.
Original Post: Leafly: 5 Ways the Cannabis Industry Has Matured
“Our philosophy is that cannabis is a tool, one of many healing tools. It should be part and parcel of an overall treatment plan,” says Donna Shields, co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy in Boulder, Colorado.
The HCA, an educational program on medical cannabis for practitioners, was developed by Shields and co-founder Laura Lagano—both registered dietician nutritionists. Continued education is expected, even required of healthcare professionals; but, when it came to medical cannabis, programs simply didn’t exist to fill that important space. When Shields realized that her colleagues knew little to nothing about cannabis, she saw it as an opportunity.
Cannabis, Synergy, and Whole Body Health
With a belief that cannabis (and all medical treatments) should be viewed through a larger lens, importance is given to the “whole body system” and how, physically, everything is related. With personal support for the “synergistic” effect in treatment care, Shields considers integrating cannabis with various modalities of healthcare, such as a good nutrition plan, acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, and yoga, as an important facet to healing.
“Cannabis is a tool, one of many healing tools. It should be part and parcel of an overall treatment plan.”
Donna Shields, Co-founder of HCA
“You don’t have to be in one camp or the other. Cannabis can be used in conjunction with your medication; we never tell anyone to stop taking their medication,” she says. “This can be an integral part of your treatment plan. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
This is exactly what Shields and Lagano have built the Holistic Cannabis Academy for: broadening perspectives and giving health practitioners a greater understanding of cannabis’ place in the medical world.
The program is run entirely online with rolling admissions, so people can join at any time. Shields markets the program in a variety of ways, including accessing medical conferences and hosting online summits. Their first summit spanned four days, 28 speakers, and 17,000 people opting in to the program.
The classes aren’t limited to certain geographical locations either, which means their student body reaches across the globe, including Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and Australia. In fact, interest abroad may be less apprehensive than here in the states.
“I see those in Canada as already being more holistically minded, so this isn’t that big a leap [for them],” says Shields. “As Canada looks to fully legalize, they’re not hamstrung by the same issues that we have [in the United States], so it’s been more comfortable for them to think about it.”
The HCA was approved for continuing education credit hours in Canada, which makes it easier for students to justify spending time and money on the program.
The Holistic Cannabis Academy was recently approved for continuing education credit hours through the Canadian Health Coach Alliance and Canadian Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
This is a big deal, because it allows health practitioners to meet their continuing education requirements while taking the HCA’s course, which makes it much easier for students to justify spending time and money taking the program. They also run similar programs in the U.S. with nutrition organizations, but it takes a lot of time and patience to gain approval since each American institution has their own governing organization and requirements.
These organizations are important to the HCA since the majority of their clientele are not physicians. “Most of the people who are gravitating towards our kind of holistic cannabis education training are allied health professionals,” says Shields. This includes acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutritionists, drug rehab counselors, mental health therapists, herbalists, and health coaches.
Shields believes that because these health practitioners generally spend a greater amount of time with their patients, as opposed to physicians who are usually in-and-out of each appointment, they are able to see the benefits of cannabis in a deeper way.
Helping Physicians Understand Cannabis as Medicine
As for why physicians are less likely to take interest in the program, Shields believes it’s simply a lack of information coming through the traditional channels.
“I think with [physicians] there’s a lot of, ‘Well, if I didn’t learn it in medical school, it can’t be true… this doesn’t have a lot of validity,’” Shields says. “Part of the problem is there’s a wealth of research available, [but] most of it has not been done in the U.S., so it requires a physician to look at it outside of the traditional channels. If the continuing education that goes on with physicians is very often delivered by pharmaceutical companies, that means they haven’t heard of the endocannabinoid system. They haven’t heard of cannabinoid medicine.”
“If the continuing education that goes on with physicians is often delivered by pharmaceutical companies, that means they haven’t heard of the endocannabinoid system. They haven’t heard of cannabinoid medicine.”
That said, Shields does believe there is a big way in which physicians are learning about medical cannabis: from their patients. With more people broaching the subject with their doctors and sharing first-hand accounts of progress they’ve made using cannabis, physicians are, in a way, being forced to acknowledge its medicinal properties.
“You know this whole stigma—and we refer to it as “cannaphobia”—it exists, and it’s alive and well. I think one of the problems particularly for licensed practitioners is, if they’re talking to their clients about [cannabis], they’re worried, is this within my scope of practice?”
Shields and the HCA say the answer to that is a resounding “yes.”
“This is education, and you have an obligation to your patient to give them a variety of options. It’s up to them to choose what they want to do.”
Still, not all patients are comfortable speaking to their doctor about cannabis. Shields notes, “A lot of patients are kind of intimidated [to have this conversation], particularly with a physician, who are kind of put on a pedestal.”
This is why it is so important for physicians to embrace education about medical cannabis and play an active role in deconstructing the stigmas. Fortunately, there is some hope. Slowly but surely, physicians are beginning to come around.
Exploring Patient Options and HCA Programs
When the HCA program first launched, the reaction was heavy with uncertainty. Now, only three years later, Shields sees a lot of the same physicians progressing their views as they witness legislative changes along with the personal accounts of their patient base.
Ultimately, the benefits of the Holistic Cannabis Academy program as not just for patients, but for healthcare professionals as well.
“If they have this level of competency, they can offer something that the health coach down the street doesn’t have, and therefore more clients will be interested to come to them. They can build their business, their practice, and generate revenue.”
As for patients who wish their own doctors would take the HCA program, Shields says they can offer some resources. While the HCA will not give out medical advice, they will inform patients about how to find good information on cannabis to take back to their doctors.
Student by student, the Holistic Cannabis Academy continues to educate all manner of health care practitioners about the benefits of medical cannabis, and in a world that is rapidly embracing cannabis reform, this education will grow in value for both curious, hopeful patients, and the practitioners who treat them.
Original Post: Leafly: This Program Wants to Teach Your Doctor About Cannabis